We've explained the benefits of implementing pay-at-the-table service in restaurants before, but there are more than a couple of ways POS resellers can do so. How a customer pays a bill depends on the devices and associated functionality available to the merchant through their POS and payments provider.
The method of payment also hinges on what sort of customer experiences restaurants want to deliver. In this article, we'll outline four pay-at-the-table options and what resellers need to do to provide them.
1. EMV Tip Adjustment
EMV tip adjustment enables restaurants to add tips to EMV transactions after patrons leave. This is an ideal option for merchants who would like to support EMV transactions without turning their current processes upside down.
What does EMV tip adjustment look like in a typical transaction? It actually depends on what the card requires customers to do when making payments. In one scenario, the server inserts the card in the EMV reader at a fixed POS station. If the card is "signature-preferring", the two receipts will be printed, allowing the customer to leave a tip and sign before leaving - just as they did pre-EMV.
However, if the customer is prompted to enter a PIN, the merchant has the option to downgrade to a signature-based transaction so that the patron doesn't have to walk over to a fixed PIN Pad to enter their PIN. In this case, the liability shifts back to the merchant for downgraded transactions - not a big deal today as the vast majority of EMV cards are being issued as non PIN-preferring.
Be sure to check with your payments provider to ensure that EMV tip adjust is supported in your current application.
2. Mobile POS Extensions
In this pay-at-the-table setup, the reseller combines a tablet with a Bluetooth EMV device to create a mobile point of sale extension. This is a convenient setup, because servers don't have to relearn a new POS interface. In addition, the POS application has complete control over the user experience for tableside payments.
Do consumers actually enjoy paying at the table, though? According to a survey from POS provider Toast, 79 percent of restaurant patrons agree that technology improves their experiences.
We actually touched on this topic in a recent article where we discussed the merits of using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to support mobile POS systems. Let's revisit the advantages and disadvantages of Bluetooth with mPOS extensions in mind.
A big drawback to using Bluetooth is that each PIN pad can only maintain one connection, which means you'd have to buy a tablet for every PIN Pad. Essentially, the merchant would have to provide enough mobile POS extensions to cover their customers on a busy shift which, for some merchants, may be cost-prohibitive.
3. PIN Pad
The PIN-pad based pay-at-the-table method is quite common outside of the U.S. Servers bring Wi-Fi-enabled PIN pads to patrons when the latter are ready to pay their bills. Restaurant guests then interact with the device directly by following PIN pad prompts to settle up and add gratuity. This approach has been a favorite among early-adopter U.S. restaurants because it gives guests the privacy they desire when tipping. That being said, because of the number of devices required for busy restaurants and the propensity for hardware damage (due to handing PIN Pads directly to patrons), this option may also prove to be cost-prohibitive for price-conscious merchants.
Customer-initiated pay-at-the-table services are largely still in development, but could bring a new definition to mobile payments, especially when it comes to restaurant service.
This is how customer-initiated pay at the table works: A patron connects directly to the restaurant's POS application using their own mobile devices - in most cases, their smart phone. Once they verify their meal, an e-commerce transaction is initiated using a tokenized card number (Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, etc.) or by entering their card into the app or secure webpage.
There are a number of payment apps available in the market today, but none have been able to break through and gain meaningful market share. Whether patrons are willing to download a unique application for each restaurant/bar they visit is also debatable. Once mature, this technology will drastically increase table turnover and boost revenues for restaurateurs without requiring significant capital outlay or PIN Pad hardware upgrades.
What option best suits your customers? Ask them what sort of customer experiences they're looking to deliver. Doing so will give you a solid idea of what kind of set-up is best for their operations.